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Common Challenges for Spanish to English Translators

Translators have quite an interesting job that is full of challenges. No two tasks are ever alike, which makes for an especially dynamic job, but also ensures that the translator is in a constant state of learning and must constantly adapt to different writing styles, topics and dialects. In addition, just being bilingual isn’t enough to be a good translator. A translator must have mastered both languages and be able to perfectly render one into the other, as discussed in another post, “The Subtle Gap Between Being Bilingual and Being a Translator.” However, each “language pair,” as it’s known in translation lingo, presents its own unique difficulties. The problems faced by someone who translates from French into English are vastly different from those who translate the other way around, from English into French, not to mention into other languages.  In this post however, I will draw from my own experiences and describe some of the common challenges faced by Spanish to English translators.


Both English and Spanish utilize the same Subject-Verb-Object (Sally threw the ball) sentence structure. However, Spanish grammar rules are much more lenient and allow for different structures to be used, while English does not. Also, in Spanish, the subject that is to be emphasized is often placed at the end of the sentence. So, for example, in Spanish if we want to emphasize that Sally threw the ball, and not Sam, the literal syntax in Spanish  might look something like “the ball threw it Sally.” A good Spanish to English translator is able to recognize these syntactic differences in a text and rearrange them in a logical way that flows well in English, although, this isn’t always easy to do.


Quite a large portion of the Spanish language is derived from Latin, just like the other Romance languages. English on the other hand is an Anglo-Saxon language that has been influenced by Latin, but to a lesser extent. As a result, many words that may be common, everyday words in Spanish, have cognates in English that are used only formally. Due to this, the translator must be aware of the level of formality and the context of the document in order to decide whether to keep the more formal cognate, or choose a more appropriate alternative.

Punctuation marks

As simple as it seems, some of the punctuation rules are exactly the opposite  between English and Spanish. For instance, all punctuation marks in Spanish must always be placed outside of quotation marks or parentheses, while in English, within. This is something that often causes much confusion.

As you can see, translators have to take many different things into consideration and pay attention to many details and nuances of both languages while translating a text. We here at Trusted Translations only employ linguistic experts who have proven experience in all of these aspects in their particular language pairs.